- — “Off-the-grid” may conjure images of die-hard survivalists, but the term actually has a spectrum of meaning.
"Now more people are starting to understand how quickly we are driving toward the edge of our ecological capacity on the planet,” said Katrina Morgan, principal architect for Fermata Consulting, a green building consulting firm. “They are not just fringe types anymore.”
Many of those disconnected from the electrical grid are living in homes powered by renewable resources like wind and solar. Some eschew other public utilities, like municipal water and sewage systems. Others forage for building materials. Many live communally. Here are a few of their stories.
“Shed” home — Western Washington
Little did Keith Callahan* know when he and his wife started building a shed on their 5-acre property, they were building their house.
Keith and his wife live in a 320-square-foot home (photo above) on a tiny island in the Puget Sound. They originally built their shed-turned-house to store belongings while they traveled in South America. “When we came home, we just moved into it and never left.”
That was eight years ago. At first their home had no insulation, no running water and no electricity — just kerosene and candles for light. But living humbly suited their “debt-free” philosophy: “We didn’t take any loans out to build it. We built it little by little.”
They now have a small solar electric system. Hot running water arrived on Thanksgiving Day 2010, in time for the birth of their son. Water comes from a rain-harvesting system on the roof. Their bathtub and shower are in their garden.
As small business owners, Keith says he and his wife straddle the off-grid world and the “Internet, cell phone, data-exchange” world. “It’s hard to keep up. You just have to experience it.”